Isn’t it funny how throughout much of the Spanish-speaking world, ska is the default fallback influence for just about evey kind of fun party music? Sure, cumbia and reggaeton are everywhere, but if you listen to metal cumbia, or skaragga, no matter how much metal, or hip-hop, or other stuff is going on in the songs, the band is still skanking! One good recent example is seven-piece Bay Area band LoCura’s latest album Semilla Caminante, which came out this past spring – it blends jaunty reggae and ska with dramatic, artsy flamenco-rock.
Frontwoman Katalina Miletich grew up bilingual in Spain, so it’s no surprise that she brings a strong flamenco influence to the music. As is typical of Spanish rock, the production on the album is digitally crisp and clean; it’s not as crazy as you would expect from a band with their name. Miletich sings with a somewhat stagy delivery, in both Spanish and English, often both in the same song. The album’s opening track, Prendela builds slowly up from a trip-hop tinged vamp, a rousing directive to get a move on. Guerrilleras, a celebration of latinas transforming the world, begins as a bouncy minor-key reggae song, then hits a lowrider groove lit up by a soulful horn chart and gets grittier from there.
Con El Viento, a bristling acoustic flamenco-rock tune, is a call to literally let some fresh air in. Squatters’ Song, another slinky reggae tune, sends a shout out to occupiers and Occupiers around the world: “Let’s repopulate all the empty boxes, one shouldn’t have to sleep on the sidewalk,” right?
Nuestros Caminos builds its way up to ska and then down to a brief dub-flavored interlude before starting all over again, while Desde Las Entranas makes towering art-rock out of a restless, angst-fueled traditional flamenco tune. The band follows that with the sarcastically chirpy ska song To’ Pa’ Mi’, a caustic sendup of narcissism and the culture it creates. Que Falta works a determined, slightly carnivalesque funk-reggae groove with an energetic break for timbales, while Te Sigo moves in the opposite direction into deep dub. The album ends with an epically crescendoing flamenco-rock anthem.
Miletich’s politics are unimpeachable – she wants change, now – although her English lyrics can be a work in progress. Happily, that’s not an issue when it comes to Spanish. And as solid as this band is – bassist Izzy and drummer Carrie Jahde are a powerful and nimble rhythm section, and trumpeter Danny Cao’s soaring lines never fail to elevate the songs, every time – there are places where the album could use more bite. A couple of flamenco-lite trip-hop interludes come thisclose to being tuneouts until the reggae or ska kicks in and makes you forget about them. But bands like this usually kick out the jams onstage: LoCura’s next show has them opening for Groundation at 7:30 PM on Halloween at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz.